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In addition to the component of human misery involved in discussions of medical treatment of the irreversibly ill, the skyrocketing cost of healthcare, particularly the large percentage of healthcare consumed in the last six months of life, have led to calls to limit "futile" treatments.

If resuscitation is successful, the arrhythmia may be treated and the patient may live a long life.

It goes without saying that this second patient must be resuscitated because the therapy is helpful and sometimes even curative.

Reviving the patient may be possible, but cardiac arrest will almost certainly recur within a very short time.

This can be contrasted with performing CPR on an otherwise healthy individual who develops an irregular heart rhythm that will result in sudden death.

Practically speaking, this means that when a patient is approaching death, one may not take his temperature, measure his pulse or blood pressure, and certainly may not draw his blood unless curative therapy or comfort measures will be applied based on the test results.

A second form of futile therapy involves a treatment that is extremely unlikely to be successful, but is intended to reverse the condition to which it is being applied.

From a Jewish perspective, we must ask whether the physician may withhold, and whether the patient may refuse, futile therapy.